Chandler senator a million-dollar election target - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler senator a million-dollar election target

October 22nd, 2020 SanTan Sun News
Chandler senator a million-dollar election target

Executive Editor

South Chandler state Sen. J.D. Mesnard has become a million-dollar target in his reelection bid.
Independent organizations have spent $1,099,882 on advertising and other efforts to unseat him, according to campaign financials filed with the Arizona Secretary of State by Oct. 14. Another $507,558 has been spent by other independent organizations supporting the longtime Republican lawmaker’s campaign for a second term in the State Senate.
“I admit to being a little shell-shocked when I saw it,” Mesnard, who served eight years in the House, the last two as Speaker, before being termed out.
Unlike political action committees and candidate’s own campaign finance statements, independent organizations do not have to disclose the source of the funds they spend on ads and other support they provide for or against a candidate.

And this year, independent organizations of all political stripes and causes have flooded Arizona with money, spending it on mailers and other forms of advertising in support of or opposition to individual candidates as well as the two initiatives on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Of the six independent organizations that have spent the most in Arizona races, according to documents filed with the state, one favors conservative causes and candidates. Of the other five, four support liberal candidates and issues while one supports moderates on both sides of the aisle.

The total spent by independent groups in Mesnard’s campaign against Democratic political newcomer Ajlan AJ Kurdoglu not only is the biggest spent by such organizations in a single Arizona legislative race.
It also exceeds the total $1,015,109 in donations given directly to all five LD17 candidates combined.

Running for two House seats in LD 17 are incumbent Democrat Rep. Jennifer Pawlik and two Republicans – incumbent Rep. Jeff Weninger and Realtor Liz Harris.
Asked about the spending against him by independent groups, Mesnard said, “It’s never felt so blatant, so palpable that it’s like people are just trying to buy the Legislature. It’s such an obscene amount of money.”
“Certain people are targets, but I’m obviously Target Numero Uno,” he added.

LD17 is reportedly one of four districts eyed by Democrats as ripe for the plucking in their bid to flip at least one legislative chamber in Arizona from Republican control to Democratic.
Republicans have the registration edge in the district with 59,232 registered voters to 48,821 registered Democrats and 52,808 independents, according to final Count Recorder data.
But Mesnard said Democrats may see two hopeful signs in LD17. One is a single-digit percentage difference between Republicans and Democrats, he said.
The other factor is Pawlik’s 2018 victory that not only cracked the all-red legislative delegation but also made her the top vote getter among House candidates in the district that year.
Additionally, President Trump carried LD17 by only 3 percent in 2016.

Independent organizations just aren’t going after Mesnard. They also are targeting the other LD17 candidates.
For example, independent groups spent $128,820 advocating for Pawlik’s reelection while others spent $90,217 to campaign against her.
Harris, who is trying to unseat her, has attracted only $15,381 in support from independent groups while those opposing her election have shelled out $84,873.
Independents have spent $45,879 in support of Weninger while negative advertising against him from other organizations has totaled $65,867.

But the most cash is flying in the LD17 Senate race, where independent organizations have spent $277,366 to urge Kurdoglu’s defeat and $186,784 advocating his election.
In straight-out donations to their respective campaigns, Kurdoglu has amassed a campaign war chest totaling $337,351 and has spent $124,82. Donations to Mesnard’s campaign so far totaled $234,260, of which $74,087 has been spent.

Mesnard theorized that the spending by independent groups for and against him may have something to do with those totals, suggesting groups that support him have spent nearly a half million dollars on his behalf because of the gap in donations between him and his opponent.

And he claimed polls may be spurring independent groups opposing him to ramp up their spending.
“It’s something of a broader issue,” Mesnard said. “There’s a lot of money just being spent in general. I think the extra-large sum probably has to do with how I’m performing in the polls relative to my opponent.
“I’ve heard rumors that there was a bit of a gap between he and I and so they decided to nuke me and create a closer race, but I can only speculate,” he added. “I don’t have conversations with these people. I just know that is an astronomical amount of money.”

In the LD 17 House campaigns, Pawlik leads the pack.
Donations to Pawlik totaled $232,656 while Weninger has raised $182,586 in his bid for his fourth and last term and Harris has raised $78,256.
Pawlik also leads in spending, having shelled out $95,974 to Weninger’s $30,845 and Harris’ $20,645.

Records show that of the six independent organizations that have spent at least $500,000 in the state this election cycle, only the Arizona Free Enterprise Fund could be described as strictly conservative. But dozens below that $500,000 threshold have spent hundreds of thousands on either conservative or liberal candidates.

The granddaddy of the six biggest spenders is the New York City-based Beyond Carbon Victory Fund.
It was founded by Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire who was a Republican when he was mayor of New York City and jumped into the Democratic presidential nomination this year. He is spending millions to defeat President Trump.
State records show the Beyond Carbon Victory Fund has spent $2.1 million, focusing its state-level spending on the Democratic candidates for the Corporation Commission. Its filings with the Secretary of State, however, do not indicate where most of its money went.

The other five independent organizations have spread their largesse among many campaigns – including legislative races.
The American Leadership Committee, which is linked to the Democratic Legislative National Committee, has spent the second highest amount of money in Arizona races with $932,584 – including at least $45,087 advocating the defeat of Mesnard and Harris in LD17.

Anti-Mesnard spending totaling at least $10,000 also was part of the $530,836 in expenditures by the Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, a nationwide coalition of public officials and others who support more firearms regulations and that ranks fifth in total campaign expenditures.
Opportunity Arizona, another liberal-leaning independent group, has spent the fourth largest sum of money with $579,633. It directed much of its money to advocating the defeat of Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick and a couple West Valley Republican legislators.

The third biggest spender among independent groups is the conservative Arizona Free Enterprise Club, whose vice president is Gilbert Councilwoman Aimee Yentes.
It has spent $590,664 to defeat not only Democrats but some Republicans viewed as too moderate, including Reps. Michelle Udall of Mesa and Heather Carter of Cave Creek during the primary. Udall won and Carter lost.
The Free Enterprise Club also has spent over $30,000 advocating Pawlik’s defeat.

Supporting Pawlik was the sixth biggest spending independent group, the New York City-based the Environmental Defense Action Fund.
It has supported moderate Republicans and Democrats, including Udall and Pawlik. It reported spending over $24,000 to advocate Pawlik’s reelection.